Ivy Tutors Network Logo
How to Study for the AP Physics Exam

How to Study for the AP Physics Exam

Clocking in at 3 hours, the AP Physics 1 Exam is a difficult test that requires a mastery of physics concepts as well as a strong baseline understanding of algebra and trigonometry. It covers the scientific principles outlined in the AP Physics 1 course units, and expects students to use algebra to solve problems related to Newtonian mechanics, energy, and several other topics. With practice, however, even the most difficult topics become manageable, and with the right preparation, the exam can be easily conquered for a great score!

Advanced Placement

Clocking in at 3 hours, the AP Physics 1 Exam is a difficult test that requires a mastery of physics concepts as well as a strong baseline understanding of algebra and trigonometry. It covers the scientific principles outlined in the AP Physics 1 course units, and expects students to use algebra to solve problems related to Newtonian mechanics, energy, and several other topics.

With practice, however, even the most difficult topics become manageable, and with the right preparation, the exam can be easily conquered for a great score!

What Does the AP Physics Exam Consist of?

The AP Physics 1 Exam consists of 55 questions split into two 90-minute sections.

Section I is a multiple-choice portion that accounts for 50% of your exam score. 45 of the 50 questions in Section I are single select (meaning there is only one correct answer) and the remaining 5 questions are multi-select, where you are required to select two correct answer choices from the four possible answers.

Section II on the AP Physics Exam is a free response segment with a total of 5 questions accounting for the other 50% of your score. Three of these Section II questions are short answers; 1 is an experimental design question and the other is a qualitative, quantitative, or translation question. All five of these multi-part questions require you to show your solutions by writing out your work. Unlike the first section, which is scored by a computer, the second section is graded by high school and college teachers who have guidelines for awarding partial credit.

A table of commonly used equations and constants is provided in the test booklet, and scientific or graphing calculators may be used for the entire exam as long as they don’t have any unapproved capabilities. The College Board Website’s list of approved calculators can be found at this link.

The AP Physics Exam will cover the following units:

  • Unit 1: Kinematics
  • Unit 2: Dynamics
  • Unit 3: Circular Motion and Gravitation
  • Unit 4: Energy
  • Unit 5: Momentum
  • Unit 6: Simple Harmonic Motion
  • Unit 7: Torque and Rotational Motion

Is the AP Physics Exam Hard?

The AP Physics 1 Exam is by no means easy, but it can be made manageable with proper practice and preparation. The exam can often be math-intense or abstract, so it is important to establish both strong mathematical and analytical skills before taking on the more difficult physics topics.

AP Physics 1 is an Algebra based course, therefore any calculus steps will be performed for you and de-emphasized, making it a good course for students who are not planning to take calculus until college.

Since the introduction of the Physics 1 test in 2015, 39.8% of test-takers passed, and 4.6% earned a 5.  Don’t be repelled by these numbers, however, as there are a number of factors contributing to this percentage, including the novelty of the test and most students’ lack of familiarity with the material as compared with the Physics 2 or Physics C tests.

What Grade Can You Take AP Physics in?

Most students will take the AP Physics exam in 11th or 12th grade, although the right time for you to take the test can vary depending on your experience and familiarity with the material.

Some important questions to ask yourself before taking on AP Physics 1 include: What mathematics have you taken? How did you do? When does your school allow you to take AP Physics 1? What does the school list as its formal prerequisites? and How have you fared in previous science classes? Algebra II is a strict prerequisite for Physics 1, but completing precalculus and trigonometry courses is also highly recommended.

What Is a Good Score on the AP Physics Exam?

A 4 or 5 on the AP Physics exam is an excellent score, but anything above a 3 is passing. A high AP score looks great on college applications, and can even earn your college credit.

The Algebra based Physics 1 & 2 courses are great preparation for college level physics classes. If you will not take calculus before or during your AP Physics class, Physics 1 & 2 are appropriate tests for you.

If you are looking to major in physical science or engineering in college, you might want to consider taking AP Physics C as it is possible that your school of choice will not accept algebra-based physics (depending on your major). Physics 1 & 2 can and should still be taken if you are looking to be a physics or engineering major.

AP Physics Exam Tips

  1. Practice and review fundamental math skills. A good understanding of basic algebra and trigonometry skills is essential for the Physics 1 Exam. Students should make sure they are able to manipulate basic equations, graph linear equations, and apply trigonometry.
  2. Use a calculator that allows you to put in constants. This will save you time and energy on exam day as you can have your constants pre-loaded. One such calculator is the CASIO fx-9860GII which is specifically catered for multiple AP courses (not just Physics 1).
  3. Familiarize yourself with the provided formula sheet. The AP Physics 1 Exam provides you with a full sheet of common formulas and constants. You should practice with this sheet so that you have a mental map of what each equation on the sheet means and when it should be used on the exam. Knowing where equations are physically located on the sheet will also help you find them faster on test day.
  4. Memorize common physics equations not provided on the formula sheet.
  5. Review fundamental physics concepts, such as conservations relationships, force of friction and angular momentum
  6. On the multiple choice problems…draw diagrams for everything! This is especially true for problems involving vectors or force. Practice drawing free body diagrams for as many scenarios as possible.

Final Exam Preparation

To prepare for the AP Physics Exam, students should first determine what they need to study by going through each unit of the AP Physics 1 course, reviewing every single topic, and performing an honest assessment of what they do and do not know. Once students have a good understanding of their existing knowledge, they can then start to hone in on the topics that are less familiar or more difficult.

When studying the course material, it is important to not just review passively by reading over concepts and definitions. Practice problems are your best friend when preparing for AP Physics; the more practice problems you do, the better prepared you will be for the test. The multiple-choice and free-response sections require different skills and strategies, so be sure to devote sufficient time to each question category. Problem sets and practice tests are a good way to both master the material and become familiar with the exam format.

Of course, you should never hesitate to ask for help! At Ivy Tutors Network, our AP Physics tutors are often graduate students at top-tier universities, in medical school, or working towards a PhD in Physics or a STEM Field. Their depth of understanding and passion for Physics have helped countless students understand this sometimes difficult subject from both a conceptual and practical perspective. They can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses, keep to a study schedule, and supply practice problems and tests. Whether you need help keeping up in AP Physics class, or want study tips for scoring a 5 on the exam, we’ve got your back!

Study Review Notes and Resources

Albert.io has a large selection of practice multiple choice and free response questions organized by unit/type as well as unit assessments for you to evaluate your progress with important physics content knowledge and skills.

https://www.albert.io/ap-physics-1

Khan Academy offers a five-section course complete with videos, quizzes and unit tests for all of the topics covered in AP physics. You can also use khan academy to find explanations or resources on specific topics that are giving you difficulty.

https://www.khanacademy.org/science/ap-college-physics-1

For more tips specific to the AP Physics Exam visit the college boards website:

https://apstudents.collegeboard.org/courses/ap-physics-1-algebra-based/exam-tips

design

Take a Diagnostic Exam in NYC

Start with a diagnostic SAT, ACT, SHSAT, ISEE, SSAT, TACHS, or AP test so you know where you stand and where you need improvement. Knowledge is power!

Related Blog Posts

Cruise to a 5 on the AP English Language & Composition Exam
By Michael S.
Cruise to a 5 on the AP English Language & Composition Exam
The AP English Language and Composition exam, offered each year in May by the College Board, test students ability to critically analyze texts and write cogent, evidence-based essays in which they present claims and arguments. The texts studied for AP Lang are non-fiction, whereas those for the AP Literature exam are fictional. AP Lang is rigorous and demanding, requiring both strong critical reading and essay-writing skills. In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the AP Lang exam, and the best tips and strategies for cruising to a 5!
AP US History Exam: The Ultimate Guide 2022
By Michael S.
AP US History Exam: The Ultimate Guide 2022
The AP US History Exam (or APUSH) covers the rich American story from the Native Americans to the present day. The exam contains a multiple-choice section, short and long essay questions, and one document-based question. Students must be able to recall specific historical facts, as well as form arguments about significant developments in the nation’s history. You have made it to May, so you know the course to be intense. But, there is good news! You can nail the AP US History exam by following a few basic study habits that are fun, low stress, and interactive.
How Hard Is the AP Calc BC Exam?
By Ivy Tutors Network
How Hard Is the AP Calc BC Exam?
Many students are unsure whether they should take the AP Calculus AB or AP Calculus BC exam. On the one hand, the AP Calculus BC exam can help you get more course credit going into college if you get a high score. On the other hand, the AP Calculus BC exam covers more material than the AB exam, and may be harder to get a high score on. So, just how hard is the AP Calculus BC exam? This guide will help you consider all the relevant factors when deciding which test to take.
How to Study for the AP Calculus AB Exam
By Ivy Tutors Network
How to Study for the AP Calculus AB Exam
With AP tests coming up this spring, many students are concerned about how best to prepare for exam day. Whether or not you are currently taking a calculus class at school, it is important to familiarize yourself with the specifics of the AP test: what content is covered, how it is formatted, and what approaches can help optimize your score. This guide will provide you with everything you need to know to go into test day with confidence.
How to Study for the AP World History Exam
By Ezra K
How to Study for the AP World History Exam
The AP World History exam is one of the longest APs (about 3 hours and 15 minutes), and requires a large breadth of knowledge. Although the exam covers historical events around the globe from the years 1200 to 2001, World History is less focused on the memorization of specific details than on the understanding of broad historical patterns, such as environmental changes, social movements, and technological advancements. With preparation, tenacity, and the right kind of practice, students can easily overcome the challenges presented by the AP World History exam, and learn valuable writing and critical thinking skills in the process!
How to Study for the AP Psychology Exam
By Lucy T
How to Study for the AP Psychology Exam
The AP Psychology exam is one of the shortest AP exams (just two hours long), but can be a challenging test for students, as it contains highly specific theory and has a strong emphasis on vocabulary. Unlike other exams, the AP Psychology exam relies less on intuition and fluency, and more on specific content that students will need to memorize and recognize. Fortunately, with a little bit of preparation, the AP Psychology exam can be easily tackled for a great score.
Do You Have to Take AP Classes to Get into College?
By Gill W.
Do You Have to Take AP Classes to Get into College?
It can be hard to figure out what exactly colleges are looking for when considering applicants.

Contact Us

I am a...